16 Mar

Please welcome Kristina McMorris, who is the recipient of nearly twenty national literary awards. A host of weekly TV shows since age nine, including an Emmy® Award-winning program, she penned her debut novel, Letters from Home (Kensington Books, Avon/HarperCollins UK), based on inspiration from her grandparents’ wartime courtship. This critically praised book was declared a must-read by Woman’s Day magazine and achieved additional acclaim as a Reader’s Digest Select Editions feature, a Doubleday/Literary Guild selection, and a 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards semifinalist for Best Historical Fiction. Her second novel, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves (March 2012), has already received glowing reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, among many others. Named one of Portland’s “40 Under 40” by The Business Journal, Kristina lives with her husband and two sons in the Pacific Northwest.

The Ride 

Clearly an overload of hormones was to blame. I was pregnant with my second child (which means I had no logical excuse not to know better) when I decided I would fill my imaginary surplus of free time by writing a novel. I wasn’t a creative writer. I was barely a reader—unless you count such literary gems as Hippo Goes to School or Where Is Ducky’s Tail?

Yet, somehow it occurred to me that writing—and publishing—a novel couldn’t be that hard. Besides, I was inspired. A discovery of my grandparents’ wartime courtship letters had gifted me with an idea for a great movie. But since I seemed to be short on a film crew…and cameras…and a craft service table at the time, I decided instead to write a book. Because that’s what a non-reader/non-writer should tackle as her first project: a 400-page novel set during an easily researched era like, oh, World War II. I had, after all, seen Saving Private Ryan at least twice, which certainly added to my qualifications.

“If nothing else,” my husband had assured me, “we can print copies at Kinko’s and give them away to the family.”

Come to think of it, based on my not-so-brilliant first draft, that might have been his gentle way of preparing me for the slew of form rejections he foresaw streaming in from New York. Fortunately—for many people’s sake—that manuscript underwent many a revision. Along the way, I learned about writing, researched obsessively, watched enough of the military channel to actually bore my husband, and yes, I read books (a profound concept, I know).

See, by the time I figured out WWII women’s fiction wasn’t “hot” in the marketplace, it was too late. I’d already finished the book, and I wasn’t about to give up without a fight. Thus, I continued on my mission until the planets aligned, the market shifted (in my favor, thank goodness), and my agent called with a contract offer for my debut, Letters from Home.

My second child is now six and my second novel, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, released just a few weeks ago. Given the story’s personal connection to my Japanese American heritage and the rare perspective I was able to explore as a result of my research, I truly feel it’s a novel I was meant to write.

So thank you, pregnancy hormones, for sparking this unexpected journey. Had rationale been calling the shots, I would have run screaming the other way—and I would have missed out on an amazing ride.

What spurred your own literary journey? Had you known what you were in for, would you have dared to take the first step? Did pregnancy hormones ever make you do anything out of the ordinary?

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  1. Janis McCurry

    March 16, 2012 at 7:03 AM

    Kristina, what a lovely gift to your family’s history. You ignored the odds and triumphed. Thanks for guest blogging on Gem State Writers.

    • Kristina McMorris

      March 16, 2012 at 5:12 PM

      Thanks for having me here! I appreciate your kind words, Janis, although I think I’m the one who’s truly received the greatest gift in the end. 🙂

  2. ramblingsfromtheleft

    March 16, 2012 at 7:33 AM

    Kristina, how delightful to meet you at another great group blog. And both in the same morning no less 🙂 For the benefit of my friends here at Gem State and their readers. I loved LETTERS FROM HOME and can’t wait to crack open BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES … so get to it gals and order her books.

    I enjoy using my post-hormonal surges and urges … it’s like junk food with no calories. Loved this post, Kristina. You have just described the pitfalls most of us experience.

    • Kristina McMorris

      March 16, 2012 at 5:13 PM

      Florence, you’re a sweetheart. Thank you for all your help in spreading word!

  3. Paty Jager

    March 16, 2012 at 8:16 AM

    Hi Kristina!

    I’m so happy for your success with your two books. And what a great way to capture your heritage. When I was pregnant with my first child and living in a box of a house right next to my in-laws, I’d picked up some stray kittens and was trying to feed and care for them. MY mother-in-law made a comment about I’d never be able to keep them alive and my hormones kicked in- I started crying and blubbering, “You think I won’t be able to keep my baby alive either.” Very awkward moment but luckily we’ve all put it off to hormones and moved on.

    I’ve had three children and now have eight grandchildren so I think I can keep things alive.

    Wishing you continued success!

    • Kristina McMorris

      March 16, 2012 at 6:15 PM

      Thanks for the warm wishes, Paty!

      That’s too funny about the hormone meltdown. While prego, I once walked through half of Costco and didn’t realize until I was at the register that I was pushing someone else’s cart! LOL. Good to know we’ve both recovered….for the most part….I think.

  4. Meredith Allen Conner

    March 16, 2012 at 9:35 AM

    Thanks for blogging with us today Kristina. Actually for me it was my post-partum hormones that got me motivated to write. Anything had to be easier than raising an infant. Ha.

    • Kristina McMorris

      March 16, 2012 at 5:14 PM

      LOL. I can totally relate, Meredith! I suppose, if I hadn’t started writing while pregnant, I was bound to start after the birth — for that exact reason.

  5. Liz Fredericks

    March 16, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    Hi Kristina – Thank you so much for blogging with GSW and sharing your story. This is wonderful inspiration! In terms of hormones . . . I’m blaming menopause for my foray into fiction. 😉

    • Kristina McMorris

      March 16, 2012 at 5:15 PM

      Menopause can be blamed for many a thing — a foray into fiction would be a minor offense. I say, blame away! Ha. Thanks for the warm welcome!

  6. Mary Vine

    March 16, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    I don’t remember pregnancy hormones but I was very young in those days. I didn’t read much until my twenties, then I couldn’t stop. One day, out of the blue, I thought I’d write a book. Didn’t see it coming! Thanks for stopping by Gem State Writers!

    • Kristina McMorris

      March 16, 2012 at 5:17 PM

      Life is definitely amazing that way, Mary! Nice to know I’m not the only person here who wasn’t a book lover since infancy. 🙂

  7. Clarissa Southwick

    March 17, 2012 at 12:36 PM

    Thanks for an inspiring blog, Kristina! I would love to hear more about your second novel 🙂


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